Over the past few years I have tried to only buy 100% grass-fed beef, which is not only the most nutritious kind of beef, but the best for the environment and the cows who get to live their lives on pasture eating the food that they were meant to eat instead of confined to a feedlot eating corn. The downside, of course, is that grass-fed beef can be incredibly expensive. We don’t eat red meat very often – maybe twice a month – but when we do, we frequently use ground beef, which is versatile and among the most reasonably priced cuts.
Many great uses for ground beef are already on the blog – tacos, chili, meat sauce and meatloaf, for example. But it just occurred to me that I’ve never posted one of my favorite uses – meatballs! We love these turkey meatballs, but I actually find it harder to find good quality ground turkey than ground beef, so lately I’ve been mostly avoiding it. Meatballs can definitely be a little annoying to make, but I enjoy them and my girls LOVE them, so every once in a while I’ll make the effort to actually stand there and roll those little balls. That being said, if I’m going to take the time to make meatballs, I’m going to make the meat mixture as simple as possible to prepare!
This recipe doesn’t disappoint – there is no chopping involved, no soaking bread in milk, no multiple kinds of meat, and no fancy ingredients that are hard to have on hand. Just some basic flavorful ingredients and a cooking method that keeps them incredibly moist! Enjoy these meatballs as an appetizer, over spaghetti squash, or, of course, with your favorite whole grain pasta.
Simple Beef Meatballs
adapted from Food Network
3-4 cups tomato sauce (pick your favorite, or you can just use crushed tomatoes and season a bit with salt and pepper, or maybe a sauteed chopped onion as well)
1 1/2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup plain whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add sauce to a medium pot and heat over medium heat until starting to bubble.
Mix the remaining ingredients together gently until just combined, using your hands if necessary. If you find the mixture seems dry and is not holding together well enough, add another egg. If it is too wet, add some more bread crumbs until you get a good consistency.
Form balls of whatever size you prefer and gently place them in the hot sauce. Simmer, covered, until the meatballs are completely cooked through. Time will vary based on the size of your meatballs – just split one open after 15-20 minutes to check and go from there. Because they are simmering in the sauce, it’s hard to dry them out by overcooking, so there’s a lot of room for error here.
Please note that even if you are extremely gentle, some of the meat will likely separate into the sauce, making the final result more like meatballs in slightly meaty sauce. I’m totally fine with this, but if you really want discrete meatballs you might want to brown them by sauteeing, baking, or broiling before cooking through in the sauce!